Tough lessons in E-Mail: how to not be a slave to your inbox
Check less often. Studies suggest that half of all workers check e-mail messages either immediately or shortly after the message arrives, but checking three times a day is sufficient for most people. Also, respond in the morning only to e-mail that can’t wait, and then move on to other priorities while you are still fresh, says Montreal author Lucy MacDonald. Respond to any remaining e-mail before you leave at the end of the day.
Put an end to CCs. Ask your staff to copy you only on e-mail that you really need to see. In many cases, you don’t need to be involved, and in others a weekly digest or summary of the activities might suffice.
Set up folders. Filter less important e-mail into folders so you can deal with it when you have time. That way, you can focus on the critical e-mail in your inbox.
Change the Subject Line. Scanning through hundreds of archived e-mails for the one message you need can be a massive time-waster when the subject line doesn’t reflect the message’s content. So always write descriptive subject lines (e.g., “2006 forecast update” versus “Hi there” or “Update”) when composing an e-mail. And don’t hesitate to change a subject line when replying if the topic of conversation changes.
Instant Information: more knowledge, less effort
Think RSS. Instead of surfing websites to find new information, install an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) reader and software and subscribe to the RSS “feeds” of websites you’re interested in. When you open your RSS reader, you’ll see clickable headlines and descriptions of content posted to the site since the last time you checked in — no more pointless surfing.
Sign up for Google Alerts. News on topics that interest you is e-mailed directly to your inbox, says Brad Hill, author of Google for Dummies. Create a free Google alert.
Try Podcasting. MP3 players aren’t just for music. You can download seminars, presentations, and radio and Web broadcasts from many websites, then listen to these “podcasts” on your MP3 player while commuting.
Google for results: how to soup up your search engine
Download the Google toolbar. Brad Hill, author of Google for Dummies, suggests complementing your standard browser controls with the Google toolbar. This will give your browser a built-in Google search bar, which saves you from visiting the search giant’s home page and gives you one-click access to subsearches, such as Google News and Google Local.
Change it up. Change the order of the search words and you may uncover relevant search results that you wouldn’t otherwise.
Use quotation marks. To narrow your search, put quotation marks around your search terms (e.g., “how to attract venture capital”). Google will then return only results that match the exact phrase.
Use the “NOT” operator. Use the minus sign to exclude words that might bring up undesirable page matches, says Hill. For example, you might search for “kayak lake-canoe” to exclude search results with the word “canoe” in them.
View more at once. Go to the Google home page, click on the “Preferences” link and change the “Number of results” from 10 to 100 — you’ll receive up to 100 search results on one page, allowing you to scan more listings in one shot.
Business travel tips: how to be a better road warrior
Fred Pentney, president of Toronto-based Dyna-Form Time and Business Management, offers four ways to get more uptime out of travel time:
Make a list. Keep a checklist of all the electronic devices, chargers and cables you need on your trips.
Store it. Carry a portable storage device (e.g., a USB memory card) that allows you to save your files, take them anywhere and easily load or view them on someone else’s computer, when necessary.
Go digital. Use a digital camera to photograph documents rather than making notes. This is a faster method to gather reference materials.
Go Wi-Fi. Purchase a Wi-Fi-enabled Internet router and a laptop (many newer notebooks have built-in Wi-Fi; older ones will need an external card). This equipment will give you high-speed Net access where there’s a Wi-Fi hot spot (e.g., airport lounges, cafés).